Conservation officer Mike Stern (middle) was recently awarded the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal recognizing officers who have completed 20 years. He works alongside Bob Hamilton (right) and Jim Beck (left) who also have over 20 years experience.

Conservation officer Mike Stern (middle) was recently awarded the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal recognizing officers who have completed 20 years. He works alongside Bob Hamilton (right) and Jim Beck (left) who also have over 20 years experience.

Penticton conservation officers bring world of experience

Mike Stern is the latest conservation officer out of the local office to be awarded the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal

With time comes experience, and the Penticton conservation officers have plenty of it.

Mike Stern is the latest conservation officer out of the local office to be awarded the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal recognizing officers who have completed 20 years. He works alongside conservation officer Bob Hamilton and field sergeant Jim Beck, who also have over 20 years experience.

Stern grew up in Penticton and fell in love with the outdoors.

“I knew I wanted to be a conservation officer since I was 15. My mother worked at the office so I got to meet all the COs when I was young and I knew that is what I wanted to do. It is the whole aspect of working outdoors and with the wildlife,” said Stern.

The conservation officer geared his schooling towards the job and was posted in Surrey and Port Alberni before returning to Penticton, the place it all started with him as a teenager, riding with Penticton officers.

“Protecting our natural resources is a big reward to this job,” he said. “We obviously go after poachers and things like that, but if we can work on files that protect habitat it goes a long ways.”

Over his 20 years of service, Stern has seen the trend of more user groups accessing the back-country, in particular more off-road vehicle use.

“What is happening in some of the areas never used before by vehicles is that we are seeing a lot more habitat damage due to new trail systems,” he said. “People don’t realize the amount of impact they create. That one time in a wetland can take years for it to rehabilitate itself.”

Violation tickets do get handed out under a 2008 provincial legislation that fines those who wilfully cause destruction to ecologically sensitive areas. The goal is to protect the sensitive areas, not stop recreational activities. The officers’ goal is to see that off-roaders stay on established trails and resist the urge to hill climb or mud bog. Stern said the conservation officers do a lot of patrols with the aim to educate user groups.

Another disturbing trend Stern has seen is partiers going out to the back-country, cutting trees down, having illegal fires, leaving behind garbage and doing damage to structures such as picnic tables. Technology, and responsible users, have helped conservation officers try and curb the behaviour.

“With Facebook, Youtube and cellphone cameras, we get more and more reports, and images to go along with them, from concerned users of the areas. There are lots of eyes and ears out in the bush that will document situations for us to follow up on, which is nice to know,” said Stern.

One of the issues that generates the most amount of calls is bears. So far, Stern said, bears have been slowly emerging, but he expects that to change as the weather warms up. The focus here is also on education, he said.

“We receive approximately 500 calls of bear complaints each year. Our job is to keep bears alive, and the majority of the time people are the problem, not the bears. We are the biggest wildlife advocates there are,” said Stern.

The conservation officer commended the work done by Zoe Kirk with the Bear Aware program to educate residents. This year the Bear Aware program is broadening its scope to include cougar, coyote and urban deer under the WildSafeBC banner working in concert with the B.C. Conservation Foundation. She reports sightings of black bears and cubs have began in Summerland and the surrounding area. Stern reminds people to be aware of what attractants they are leaving out for bears and to try and eliminate them.

Besides Stern, nine other conservation officers in the province were awarded the exemplary service medal earlier this month by Environment Minister Terry Lake and B.C. Lt.-Gov. Judith Guichon. Lake said conservation officers are leaders in B.C. and complimented them on working hard to protect the environment and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

“There are many members within the service who go well beyond the call of duty and I am extremely proud of those honoured with the Peace Officer Exemplary Service Medal,” said chief conservation officer Kelly Larkin.

To report a poacher or polluter call the toll free tip line at 1-877-952-7277.

 

Just Posted

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross. (Photo by Peter Versteege)
BC Liberal leadership candidate condemns ‘senseless violence’ of Okanagan church fires

Skeena MLA Ellis Ross says reconciliation isn’t about revenge for past tragedies

(Black Press file photo)
EDITORIAL: Curtailing attempts at scams

The true total of losses from all scams and frauds could be much higher than the figures on file

Penticton Indian Band Chief Greg Gabriel speaks to the Sacred Hearts Catholic Church burning down early Monday morning, June 21, 2021. (Monique Tamminga Western News)
Penticton band chief condemns suspicious burning of 2 Catholic churches

Both Catholic church fires are deemed suspicious, says RCMP

(Drive BC photo)
Vehicle incident closes Highway 3 east of Osoyoos

Drive BC says to avoid the area until the road is clear

Osoyoos chef Murray McDonald was ecstatic upon realizing he scored the $1 million guaranteed prize in the June 2, 2021 Lotto 6/49 draw. (Contributed)
Osoyoos chef ecstatic after bagging $1 million Lotto 6/49 win

Chef Murray McDonald was at home and ready to doze off to sleep when he got a text from his wife

The border crossing into the United States is seen during the COVID-19 pandemic in Lacolle, Que. on February 12, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
VIDEO: Border quarantine to soon lift for fully vaccinated Canadians

Eligible travellers must still take multiple COVID-19 tests

Chilliwack secondary school’s principal is apologizing after a quote equating graduation with the end of slavery in the U.S. was included in the 2020-2021 yearbook. (Screenshot from submitted SnapChat)
B.C. student’s yearbook quote equates grad to end of slavery; principal cites editing error

Black former student ‘disgusted’ as CSS principal apologizes for what is called an editing error

A coroner’s inquest will be taking place at the Capitol Theatre in Port Alberni for the next week. (ELENA RARDON / ALBERNI VALLEY NEWS)
Teen B.C. mom who died following police custody recalled as ‘friend to many’

Police sent Jocelyn George to hospital after intoxication had gone ‘beyond the realm’ of normal detox

FILE - In this Nov. 29, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas Raiders defensive end Carl Nassib leaves the field after an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in Atlanta. Nassib on Monday, June 21, 2021, became the first active NFL player to come out as gay. Nassib announced the news on Instagram, saying he was not doing it for the attention but because “I just think that representation and visibility are so important.” (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)
Nassib becomes first active NFL player to come out as gay

More than a dozen NFL players have come out as gay after their careers were over

Photograph By MICHAEL POTESTIO.KTW
Former Kamloops security gaurd wants job back after kicking incident caught on video

Rick Eldridge quit when a video surfaced of him kicking a man outside a facility for homeless

People participated in a walk to honour the 215 children found at a former Kamloops residential school, as well as residential school survivors. (Twila Amato/Black Press Media)
Kelowna marks National Indigenous Peoples’ Day with walk to remember Kamloops 215

“Let’s speak the truth and deal with the truth, and heal.”

COVID-19 daily cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day moving average to June 17, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infections drop to 90 on Sunday, 45 Monday

Pandemic spread dwindles as 77% of adults receive vaccine

A home on Cameo Drive sustained major damage due to an early morning fire Monday, June 21. (Roger Knox - Morning Star)
UPDATE: Fire sparked during Vernon home renovation

Heavy black smoke from Cameo Drive home, no one inside

The new Civic Memorial Park will incorporate pieces of the 80-year-old arena it replaces. (Artists rendering)
Pieces of Civic Arena reclaimed for new Vernon park

City centre space to incorporate wood from the historic arena

Most Read